Hurricane Irene: 7 states declared emergencies.
At least 7 states – North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Delaware and Connecticut – declared emergencies as Hurricane Irene massively advances toward US Eastern Seaboard.
North Carolina is likely to take the first blow, according to officials.
New York officials ordered low-lying hospitals and nursing homes to evacuate.
If Hurricane Irene follows its current projected path, it will make landfall along North Carolina’s Outer Banks on Saturday.
“The Category 3 storm withdrew from the Bahamas late Thursday, traveling north at 14 mph,” the National Hurricane Center said.
Although North Carolina will take the first hit, “the rest of the Eastern Seaboard is well within the path of this storm,” National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read said.
Chris Christie, New Jersey Governor said: “This could be a 100-year event.”
New York City officials said they might have to suspend all mass transit beginning Saturday.
In addition to ordering nursing homes and hospitals in low-lying coastal areas to evacuate ahead of possible flooding, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg advised residents to stay out of parks.
“Because of the high winds that will accompany the storm, we are also urging all New Yorkers, for their own safety, to stay out of parks, where the high winds will increase the danger of downed trees and limbs,” Bloomberg said.
“And incidentally, it’s a good idea to stay out of your own backyard if you have trees there.”
Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial postponed it indefinitely because of the Hurricane Irene.
More than 50 million people live in the projected path of the storm.
Irene has an outside chance of growing into a Category 4 storm, with sustained winds topping 130 mph. But current forecasts predict it will diminish to Category 2 after pummeling North Carolina, with sustained winds up to 110 mph as it plows into Virginia, Maryland and Delaware.
North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue declared an emergency in all counties east of Interstate 95, about a quarter of the state, and officials set up emergency shelters inland. President Obama declared North Carolina an emergency too, expediting federal help.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency established a depot for food, water, generators, baby formula and other emergency supplies at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, as well as at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey and Westover Air Reserve Base in Massachusetts.
Up to 200,000 tourists and residents are affected by evacuation orders in North Carolina alone, with states to the north rushing to prepare their own evacuation plans. Forecasters said Irene was so big and powerful that severe road flooding and widespread electrical outages were likely, especially in the Northeast, where the ground is saturated from recent rains.
“This is a very dangerous storm,” said Dorothy Toolan of the Dare County Emergency Management office in Manteo, North Carolina, across the Roanoke Sound from Nags Head.
“People really need to take this seriously.”
Hurricane Irene would be the first hurricane to hit the US mainland since Ike devastated the Texas coast in 2008.
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